House passes smoke ban

March 25, 2007|By Jennifer Skalka | Jennifer Skalka,Sun reporter

The Maryland House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved a proposal yesterday to ban smoking in most indoor public establishments, with supporters applauding vigorously after passage of a measure they said marks a step toward mitigating the health consequences of secondhand smoke.

The final vote was 98-40.

"Public health has to take precedence over profit," said Del. Dereck E. Davis, a Prince George's County Democrat.

Detractors said the bill would hurt small businesses and veterans, who gather at American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars clubs across the state.

"When is the state of Maryland in the business of putting people out of business?" said Del. Joseph J. "Sonny" Minnick, a Baltimore County Democrat who voted against the proposal.

The state Senate is likely to back a similar measure tomorrow evening. If the Senate passes the bill, a key difference between the two proposals - an exemption for private clubs that is included in the Senate version but not in the House initiative - will have to be hashed out in conference committee.

Another point of conflict is how to grant "hardship" waivers, if owners of bars and restaurants can demonstrate that the ban harms them financially. The House leaves is to the state, while the Senate makes it a county decision.

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